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What color is Mercury sky?

Mercury’s sky appears black to the human eye. This is because the planet has an extremely thin atmosphere, called an exosphere. Without a dense atmosphere to scatter sunlight, the sky remains dark even during the daytime. However, the exact color seen would depend on the position of the Sun and the observer’s location on the planet.

Why does Mercury have a black sky?

There are three main reasons why Mercury’s sky appears black:

  1. Thin atmosphere – Mercury has a very thin exosphere composed of atoms blasted off its surface by solar radiation and solar wind. With an atmospheric pressure almost akin to vacuum, there are not enough gas molecules to adequately scatter sunlight.
  2. No atmospheric refraction – Earth’s atmosphere refracts sunlight, bending rays over the horizon to illuminate the sky even when the Sun is not directly overhead. Without an atmosphere, sunlight on Mercury travels in straight lines, so the sky remains dark.
  3. Lack of atmospheric particles – Dust, water droplets, and other particles in Earth’s atmosphere diffuse and scatter sunlight in all directions, giving our sky its blue color. Mercury’s exosphere lacks these particles to effectively scatter light.

With essentially no atmosphere to diffuse sunlight or refract light over the horizon, Mercury’s sky remains perpetually dark.

How does Mercury’s black sky change with Sun angle?

The amount of sunlight reaching Mercury’s surface depends on the angle of the Sun in the sky. With a very low Sun, the sky remains completely black. But as the Sun rises higher, the sky takes on a dark grey or blue hue around the Sun:

  • At sunrise or sunset on Mercury, when the Sun is near the horizon, the sky is entirely black. None of the sunlight is scattered without an atmosphere.
  • When the Sun is very low in the sky, around 5-10° above the horizon, the area directly around the Sun will start to glow a very dark blue or grey.
  • At high noon, when the Sun is at its zenith point directly overhead, the sky will appear a dark grey or midnight blue around the Sun.
  • As the Sun lowers again toward the horizon, the sky fades back to fully black.

So while the sky remains dark, there are subtle changes in intensity and color around the Sun depending on solar angle.

Does Mercury’s exosphere affect sky color?

Mercury’s exosphere is composed of atoms like hydrogen, helium, oxygen, sodium, potassium and calcium. This thin exosphere slightly alters the sky’s color:

  • Hydrogen atoms absorb orange-red light, giving the sky a more blueish cast.
  • Helium atoms absorb yellow light, also contributing to a slightly bluer sky.
  • Oxygen absorbs infrared light, reducing the overall perceived brightness around the Sun.

However, the exosphere is extremely thin even compared to Earth’s upper atmosphere. It does not produce any noticeable atmospheric scattering or refraction. So while it can subtly alter the darkness of Mercury’s sky, the atmosphere is essentially optically transparent to the human eye.

Does sky color depend on observer’s location?

The apparent color of Mercury’s sky does depend slightly on the location of the observer on the planet:

  • On the day side of the planet, the sky appears black with a glow of dark blue or grey around the Sun.
  • On the night side of the planet, the sky appears completely black since sunlight does not reach over the horizon.
  • Near the poles, the Sun can appear very low in the sky instead of passing directly overhead. This results in a darker sky since less sunlight reaches the surface.
  • At higher latitudes and altitudes, the exosphere becomes thinner. With fewer particles to absorb light, the sky may appear darker.

But the differences are very subtle. Overall, the lack of any substantial atmosphere means the sky retains an inky blackness across Mercury’s surface.

Could there be color effects from dust storms?

On rare occasions, dust storms do occur on Mercury which could temporarily alter the sky’s appearance. Charged particles from the Sun can electrify and levitate dust grains, creating short-lived dust clouds. If illuminated by sunlight, the dust could potentially create interesting color effects in Mercury’s sky such as:

  • A brighter, more diffuse glow around the Sun as more dust particles scatter light.
  • Possible reddish-brown hues if iron-rich minerals become suspended in the dust clouds.
  • Brief green, yellow or blue tints depending on the mineral composition of the lofted dust.

However, these dust storms are rare and short-lived. Mercury’s negligible atmosphere means suspended dust quickly falls back to the surface. Any color effects would last only as long as the dust cloud remained aloft before the sky reverted back to black.

How does Mercury’s sky color compare to other planets?

Among the planets of our solar system, Mercury’s black sky most closely resembles that of our Moon due to the lack of any substantial atmosphere:

Planet/Moon Atmospheric Density Sky Color
Mercury Almost none Black
Moon None Black
Mars Very thin (0.6% of Earth’s) Butterscotch during dust storms, otherwise grey-blue
Earth Thick Nitrogen/Oxygen atmosphere Blue
Venus Very dense, mostly CO2 Pale yellow
Jupiter Thick hydrogen/helium atmosphere Multi-colored bands and zones

As this comparison shows, the color of a sky is directly related to the density and composition of the planet’s atmosphere. With essentially a vacuum for an atmosphere, Mercury’s black sky is truly unique in our solar system.


In summary, Mercury’s sky appears black to the human eye due to the planet’s extremely thin exosphere that cannot effectively scatter sunlight. The sky may take on a very dark blue or grey hue around the Sun depending on the solar angle, but otherwise remains pitch black. Dust storms can briefly affect the sky’s color by scattering light, but the dust quickly settles back to the surface. Among solar system bodies, Mercury’s black sky most closely resembles that of our airless Moon, underscoring the defining role of planetary atmospheres in creating colorful skies.